Balgüe preschool graduation, 2011

Just a couple of years after some communities on Ometepe got electricity for the first time, all primary schools on the island will have laptops for students next year, thanks to a grant from Fundación Zamora Terán, a Nicaraguan NGO.

Whereas other computers come with an owner’s manual, the XO laptop comes with a curriculum. This will be integrated into the Nicaraguan curriculum in all primary grades. Each student will have a laptop to take home at night. In some cases, the laptop will be connected to the Internet at home, in most cases it will be connected at school (it will be in Balgüe).

David Mitchell, a Bosia trusteee, and his wife, Lisa, were at the preschool graduation in Balgüe on Dec. 1 when Everisto Montiél, the director of the Maderas primary school system, announced that each graduates will start next year with a computer through the program. “Because of our connection to the Sister Islands Association, we’re always guaranteed a good seat (on the stage) and the opportunity to shake every new first-grader’s hand,” David wrote in an email. “And so it was today. We’ve been to lots of these graduations and they’re always amazing and full of hope, but there was something extra today that made it even more amazing.”

Fundación Zamora Terá is contributing $1 million for the laptops, and there will also be a series of fund-raising events on Ometepe, such as fishing tournamets and festivals. At a news conference announcing the program, there was also mention of asking entrepreneurs and professionals on  Ometepe to contribute.

Teacher training sessions begin in December. In February, just after the new school year begins, 4,700 laptops are supposed to be delivered to Ometepe.

One Laptop Per Child is a non-profit focused on providing children in poor, rural areas around the world with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop.
The organization hasn’t fulfilled its early, lofty goals. “But it has persisted,” Mitchell notes. “And while the hardware and software has gotten better bit by bit, the understanding of how to integrate computers into rural schools has grown a lot.”

One thing’s for sure: Distributing laptops to all students on Ometepe is a huge thing and will fundamentally change education on Ometepe.